Grassroots leaders and residents of Nee Soon East Constituency
Ladies and gentlemen
Civil Defence Emergency Handbook
I am delighted to be here with you this morning for the launch of the Civil Defence Emergency Handbook Collection Exercise. The Civil Defence Emergency Handbook was first published in 1990. Over the years, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has revised and updated the Civil Defence Emergency Handbook, taking inpublic feedback and incorporating new emergency scenarios.
2. The Emergency Handbook is now in its 5th edition. This new edition covers new emergency preparedness messages such as how we should react to conventional and unconventional threats, and how the public can play a part in the fight against terrorism. This new edition has also been updated to cover scenarios such as what to do when there is a power outage; what to do when you spot suspicious characters or activities; and what to expect in a decontamination process in a hazardous material incident.
How to Get the SCDF Emergency Handbook
3. The SCDF had distributed a copy of the earlier edition of the Emergency Handbook to every household in Feb 2003. Every household should therefore possess a copy of the handbook today. Those who are interested to update their version of the handbook or obtain a copy can do so between 17 and 30 Apr 2005, from their Residents’ Committee centres and Community Clubs / Centres (CC). If they miss this period, they can still obtain copies of the Emergency Handbook from Civil Defence Divisions, Fire Stations, Fire Posts and the Neighbourhood Police Centres near their homes. They can also contact the SCDF at Tel: 6848 1730.
4. The SCDF through partnering with the grassroots to make available the Emergency Handbooks to the residents who want them, will also be able to know the real demand for these handbooks and their value to the residents. Indeed feedback on how to improve its contents is most welcomed. In a recent Sunday Times article of 27 Feb 2005, “Are Singaporeans equipped for a disaster?", it was noted that while 80 per cent of those polled agreed that having a READY Bag or emergency kit for their families is a good idea, most of them also do not see the point or need to do so. This is due simply to complacency. It is tied to the confident but misguided view that that the authorities will always be able to avert or deal with any crisis or threat.
5. We all need to take ownership over the safety and security of our own homes and our loved ones. Although this message may seem to be drummed these days with repeated urgency, this is firstly not a new message and secondly, this urgency is not without good cause. If we read the papers each day, it is obvious why we have good cause to be vigilant because the violence of terrorism in the region has not faded away with the dismantling of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Active elements of the JI are working today in concert with other groups like the Abu Sayaf and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) in the Philippines and with other local groups in Indonesia.
6. I mentioned that the message for public involvement is neither new nor alien to us. Crime prevention for instance has always been pursued not just as an issue of Police action but also public awareness and security-consciousness. Civil defence exercises have been a common feature of community civic life in Singapore. We have had emergency preparedness exercises long before 11 Sept , 2001.
7. Being prepared for contingencies is a good habit. This is as true for a terrorist incident, a blackout or even a household accident or emergency. Whether it is the packing of a READY Bag or reading up and knowing what to do in an emergency or learning useful first aid and life saving skills like CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), such actions are never a waste of time. It not only makes us take personal ownership over our own safety, it also empowers us with the knowledge that we are better prepared. A Ministry of Home Affairs survey conducted in Oct 2004, found that while 92 per cent of respondents agreed that the public had a role to play in keeping Singapore safe from terrorism, almost 1 in 2 respondents, or only 48 per cent, thought they were mentally prepared to deal with the consequences of a terrorist attack on Singapore.
8. The complacent attitude among Singaporeans on emergency preparedness is to some extent reinforced by the effectiveness of the Government in dealing with crises and emergencies. As a result, our people have grown used to relying on the Government to solve all their problems and to anticipate and prepare for all possibilities. To counter this complacent attitude, we have to find more creative ways to reach out to the community and to engage Singaporeans in taking a larger stake in preparing for and ensuring the safety and security of their household members.
9 This morning I am happy to see that the organisers have also put together a futsal tournament for young children at the Nee Soon East Sports Park. This is a refreshing way to reach out to the residents. Futsal and emergency preparedness may appear to have little in common. But then, futsal tournaments like emergencies support a common observation – the team with the higher odds to win is usually the one with better trained, determined and resilient players, in short the better prepared team.
10. At the futsal tournament this morning, the Nee Soon East CCC and SCDF attracted the young children and their parents. Futsal is also a good and fun way to attract young people and give us an opportunity to spread the emergency preparedness message. This is right because emergency preparedness should start from a young age. When the children bring their parents along, this is even better. By successfully bringing parents and residents together for the futsal tournament this morning, we have created an opportunity for us to touch base with residents and to spread awareness of personal responsibility and emergency preparedness. To reach out to the public on the emergency preparedness message, we would have to find even more creative ways to attract and engage the community.
11. On this note, I would like to thank all the grassroots volunteers, footballers, and the SCDF for selflessly contributing their time and energies to make possible today’s launching ceremony. Thank you for organising activities for the residents and for making today a fun Sunday.